National News

Rattlesnake Festival is Back!

Even though at the beginning of Feb. 2017 the Rotary Club of San Antonio announced a discontinuation of the San Antonio’s annual Rattlesnake Festival and Run, the beginning of Mar. brings new hope for the event as a new organizer decided to take over the management of the festival.

The Thomas Promise Foundation has become the savior of the event of which tradition goes back to 1967, according to an article published in The Laker Lutz News on Mar. 1.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the chairwoman and former Rotary president, Betty Burke, said that organizing the event has become difficult due to the growing popularity of competing events and the lack of sponsors, as well as volunteers.

Burke indicated that the Rotary Club of San Antonio had just 15 members, and organizing the event has become to challenging for the organization.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing for us – a difficult moment for some of us,’ said Burke for The Tampa Bay Times.

Nevertheless, in the interview for the Tampa Bay Times, Burke also sent a message encouraging other organizations to take over the festival as the Rotary Club of San Antonio was willing to share its knowledge to anyone who would like to continue the 50-year-old tradition.

The Laker Lutz News indicates that after the announcement of the discontinuation of the festival, and the article published in Feb., five organizations stepped forward to take over and organize the event.

The Rotary Club of San Antonio discussed the offers during a meeting that took place on Feb. 21. The result of the conversations was choosing the Thomas Promise Foundation as a new organizer of the event, as it would best fit for the festival’s original mission.

The Thomas Promise Foundation’s mission, according to foundation’s website, is to provide items Pasco County’s schoolchildren that are normally taken for granted.

The foundation was established by Brooke Thomas, who began helping those in need as early as first grade. This is when she noticed some of her classmates go to school hungry, Thomas then asked her mom for more lunch money to help the classmates.

The will to help others allowed Thomas to create the foundation located in Zephyrhills, Fla. that nowadays helps 19 schools in Pasco County by providing over 1000 children with food. Each week the foundation fulfills its plan called “Operation Backpack” and packs “over 1000 backpacks with safe, non-perishable, and nutritious food to see them through the weekend when school meals are not available,” according to the foundation’s website.

It is not the first time when the organizers of the Rattlesnake Festival change. In 1967, the festival, which at this time was called the Rattlesnake Roundup, was organized by Eddie Herrmann and Willy Post as the Jaycees, and it replaced the San Antonio Junior Chamber of Commerce’s Fun Day, according to the Laker Lutz News.

After nearly a decade a Rattlesnake and Gopher Enthusiasts (R.A.G.E) took over the organization of the event and managed to maintain its existence until 2013 when the organization announced that it was no longer possible to manage the event due to lack of volunteers.

After the resignation of R.A.G.E, the San Antonio Rotary Club took over the event and managed it until the year of 2016, when the festival celebrated its 50th anniversary, which according to Burke has already been very challenging; “We really pulled it off for the 50th,” said Burke reported the Tampa Bay Times.

Continuation of the festival might be important for the local community as many of the Pasco County citizens grew up with the event or participated in the run that is part of the festival.

As the festival consists of those two main parts, it provides the participants with diverse opportunities to engage in the local community life. Even if some people are not interested in the attractions, such as watching snakes or other animals, the Rattlesnake Run might bring a different kind of audience and vice versa.

Therefore, keeping the festival in its current form, with the run, might be helpful in building the tradition and attracting even more participants.

“As far as the festival goes I’ve never actually taken part in the festival beyond buying a few things and eating some of the food, but I have entered a rattlesnake run lots of times,” said Richard Jones, a San Antonio citizen who has lived in the town for 14 years.

Nevertheless, the event’s tradition is already long, and the festival might have a potential to grow. The size of the event might also depend on the vison of the new organizer.

“I would like to see it stay the size it is to fit in with the size of the San Antonio community, keeping local church and community groups involved,” added Jones.

As a local charity organization, Thomas Promise Foundation might manage to fulfill such request, and the results will be visible at the end of Oct. 2017.

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